Concerned about buying an electronic drum set online without playing it first? You needn’t be. Online music instrument retailers like Sweetwater, Thomann, Guitar Center and Musician’s Friend offer hassle-free returns as standard, so you can purchase a kit, play it in the privacy of your home and send it back if it's not right. Most offer between 30-45 days to return an item, as long as it’s in original condition.
Electronic drums (sometimes also called 'e-kits' or 'electric drums') have improved dramatically over the decades, and particularly in the last 10 years or so, shifting ever closer to the experience of playing an acoustic drum set. From the physical hardware – from robust and adjustable rack systems, to responsive rubber or mesh pads – and the clever trigger technology that ensures a sound plays when you strike a pad, the best electronic drum sets have never been better, or offered greater value for money.
There are electronic drum sets to suit every type of player. Perhaps you want to practice regularly at home, but can't make too much noise? Or you could be a pro drummer who needs reliability, performance and control over your sound, whether you’re playing on stage or recording in the studio? There's definitely a kit here for your needs.
In between these two extremes are great intermediate electronic drum kits, including options designed to look more like acoustic drum sets – complete with wooden drum shells – and smaller kits for compact spaces.
With Black Friday on the horizon, it could be worth holding off on picking up an electronic drum set until the Black Friday music deals start emerging. We'll be reporting on the best offers right through to Black Friday itself.
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What is the best electronic drum set right now?
With so much choice it can be difficult to pin down the best electronic drum set to match your needs an budget. If you have money burning a hole in your pocket and you need the very best in terms of technology, sounds and hardware, there are definitely kits for you.
The Roland TD-50KVX is really the pinnacle of e-kit technology right now. From the studio to the stage, the tech under the hood of this percussive powerhouse is designed to help you unlock all your drumming potential with dynamic, expressive feedback.
If you’re just starting out, you can do no wrong by investing in an Alesis electronic drum set. The Nitro Mesh offers incredible value. As the name suggests, you get mesh drums and a module loaded with 385 sounds, arming you with all the tools you need to get started. If you have a slightly bigger budget, the TD-1DMK is Roland's cheapest all-mesh kit, and would make an ideal choice.
A special mention must also go to the Roland TD-17KVX. Not only do you get great feeling mesh drums and some great sounds out of the box, but the module also features Bluetooth so you can connect your smartphone without wires and play along to your favourite tracks.
Best electronic drum sets: everything you should know
If you’re a new drummer, where should you start when it comes to buying the best electronic drum set for you? There are a few things to consider, and we cover these in far more detail in our dedicated guide to the best beginner electronic drum sets.
In a nutshell, you’ll want at least four drums (snare drum and three tom-toms) and three cymbals (hi-hat, crash and ride), plus a bass drum and hi-hat controller pedal. Some shops even chuck a drum throne, some sticks and a set of headphones in the box if you're lucky, too. Keep an eye out for great bundle deals that offer everything you need to start drumming.
Rubber vs mesh electronic pads
Whilst rubber is perfectly functional, we would always recommend stretching your budget to an e-kit with mesh pads if at all possible, as they offer a more authentic experience and can often be tuned to the ideal tension for you using a standard drum key.
At the entry level your drum module (sometimes referred to as the ‘brain') will offer a limited selection of sounds that cover acoustic drum kits to electronic sounds and percussion.
Your e-kit module should also feature an auxiliary input for connecting a smartphone or music player, enabling you to jam with your favourite music – nothing feels better than locking in with the hits from your favourite artists. Your first e-kit won’t be premium, but if you’re looking to find your feet and practice without disturbing people at home, you’ll do no wrong here.
Best electronic drum sets: intermediate e-kits
Spend a bit more and you’ll open yourself up to sturdier hardware that's easier to manoeuvre and get your kit in a more comfortable, more natural playing position. The supplied module will likely offer better sounds, with the ability to edit them (tuning, adding dampening etc) and the function to import samples.
The module and trigger technology at this level will also make the response to your playing feel more realistic and natural. Finally, with the increased outlay, you're far more likely to be playing on mesh pads rather than rubber.
Best electronic drum sets: going pro
If you’re ready to step up to a professional kit, you really are in the realm of what can be classed as the best electronic drum sets money can buy. Here, you’ll be investing significant money in leading electronic drum kit technology. You’ll be able to edit your sounds to perfection and the relationship between striking a drum and the sound that’s created will be incredibly realistic, responding authentically to your drumming dynamics, from the lightest ghost note, to a fat backbeat. This kit will be well equipped to perform at home, on-stage and in the studio.
With a pro e-kit module, the parameters of your sounds can be changed within seconds, right there in the box. Want to add some ‘virtual tape’ to dampen a tom? You got it! Want to change the space you’re playing in from a small room to a cathedral? No problem.
Of course, all this technology and premium hardware comes at a price, but you know you’re buying into technology that will enable you to play with authenticity for years to come, with plenty of room to expand and experiment. You may never return to an acoustic drum kit again.
Whether you're after a cheap electronic drum kit for someone just getting started, a mid-range set for home practice or something for gigging and professional session recording, here is our pick of the very best electronic drum kits for all levels, with top picks from Roland, Yamaha and Alesis, including our thoughts on the all-new Roland TD-27KV, released earlier this year at NAMM 2020.
The best electronic drum sets available today
The Alesis Nitro Mesh e-kit includes an 8" dual-zone mesh snare, three 8” single-zone mesh toms, a 10” dual-zone crash (chokeable), two additional single-zoned cymbals (one for hi-hat and ride cymbal), hi-hat controller pedal and a complete four-post drum rack.
Also included is the Alesis DMPAD kick pad featuring a robust pressed steel housing, anti-creep spikes and a single-zone srurface. Partnering the kick is a chunky kick pedal together with essential assembly key, sticks and manuals.
Only a few strikes of the quality mesh pads reveal the kit’s acoustic drum-esque properties, particularly with rim-shots and cross stick. The same goes for the crash, which is capable of impressive chokes.
The module houses 385 sounds, 40 kits and 60 playalong songs and the layout is great for quick kit/drum voice editing – this is where the module has the edge over almost any other kit at this price-point. The Nitro offers up an incredible spec at an impressively competitive price tag and makes an excellent value first drum kit or a great cheap practice kit.
Read the full Alesis Nitro Mesh review
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- Comparison: Alesis Nitro Mesh vs Yamaha DTX402K vs Roland TD-1K
Yamaha’s DTX402 series is aimed squarely at entry-level drummers. There are three kits in the 402 line-up, but the 402K is the best for tight budgets and offers plenty to help first-timers get started.
The kit features a sturdy rack plus quiet, natural-feeling rubber drums and cymbals. The DTX402 module is packed with 287 expressive drum and percussion sounds, 128 keyboard sounds, 10 customisable kits and nine reverb types. In addition, aspiring players will find multi-genre playalongs, recording functionality and ten training tools to boost timing, speed and expression.
Impressively, the DTX402 is also compatible with Yamaha’s free DTX402 Touch app (iOS/Android), which enables deeper kit customisation, additional playing challenges and rewards as players improve.
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This compact kit packs an 8" dual-zone mesh snare, three 6" single-zone mesh toms , three choke-able 10" dual-zone cymbals (hi-hat, ride and crash), a hi-hat controller pedal and a bass drum pad. The neat four-post rack is built around a narrow H-shaped central section and houses an in-built rubber bass drum trigger that’s wide enough to accommodate a double pedal. As a result, it's one of the best electronic drum sets for smaller spaces.
The TD-1 module is packed with decent backing tracks, practice aids and some challenging coaching functions. Despite missing some bells and whistles, the module’s simplicity makes it incredibly user friendly, so it’s particularly well suited to new to intermediate drummers. The 15 kit presets on-board are varied in style and provide a usable selection of sounds that cater for many styles of music. The two-ply mesh heads respond well and there’s a pleasing dynamic range afforded by the module.
Read the full Roland TD-1DMK review
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The Command Mesh follows a standard five-piece-plus-cymbals kit configuration, including an 8" bass drum which also uses a mesh head. The snare and toms are all dual-zone, meaning that separate sounds can be assigned to the head and rim of each pad.
Other top features include a USB MIDI connection, enabling you to easily record MIDI data into a computer – plus standard MIDI in/out sockets, 3.5mm headphone and auxiliary input jacks, expansion inputs for an additional tom and cymbal. To the side of the module sits another USB socket, allowing you to connect a memory stick containing your own jam tracks or samples. The sounds within the sleek-looking Command module follow the overall feel of the rest of the kit: it’s safe, with everything you need.
Acoustic kits range from studio all-rounders to samples of brushed jazz kits, taking in rock, funk and ‘power’ style sounds along the way. Alesis has done a fine job with the Command Mesh. The mesh heads alone make it a worthy contender, while the range of sounds on offer followed by the sample playback option make this a kit that will take a long time to outgrow.
Read the full Alesis Command Mesh review
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The DTX502 module gives the user a total of 691 drum and percussion samples and 128 keyboard voices. There is also plenty of space for 50 user kits. As well as drum samples, which are taken from Yamaha's classic acoustic drums, this module incorporates additional sounds created by third-party VST developers. The USB port also opens drummers up to the wealth of drum sample libraries readily available. The DTX562K’s samples are crisp and clean without being clouded or 'improved' with compression or masses of reverb – just a really great drum sound. The selection of intelligently compiled kits and the small but diverse range of songs is equally impressive.
Cymbal features such as muting, swells and choking are authentic and make the whole set more enjoyable to play. While the lower-end DTX kits offer a great deal for your wallet, it is worth shelling out the extra for the enhanced response and feel of these Textured Cellular Silicone heads.
Read the full Yamaha DTX562K review
The big message with Roland's mid-range TD-17 line, which features new pad designs, sounds derived from the flagship Roland TD-50 module, as well as Bluetooth alongside the ability to import your own samples, is that electronic drums shouldn’t feel like a compromise to those who are learning and improving on an electronic kit. Hence Roland’s ‘Become a better drummer, faster’ tagline.
High quality and highly configurable sounds aside, the main draws here are Bluetooth, and the ability to import your own samples. You can throw whatever .wav sample you have onto an SD card and into the pool of 100 user slots.
Then comes the Bluetooth. Many drum companies have dabbled with their own systems, but this solution makes the TD-17 one of the best electronic drum sets around. Pairing your device and starting to play along to tracks is fast, and rock solid. The Roland TD-17K's sound quality, features and playability set a new benchmark for those looking for V-Drums they aren’t going to outgrow in a hurry.
Read the full Roland TD-17KVX review
The 11-piece Strike Pro wears Alesis’ flagship crown. All drum are dual-zone (except for the single-zone bass drum), as are the chokeable crashes. The large ride cymbal has three zones which offer separate control over the bell, bow and edge. The sleek looking module features a large 4.3” colour display and physical mixer. The unit also features an on-board effects engine and in-built sampling capability which allows the real-time recording and editing of audio via the aux input.
Most impressive is that the Strike Module accepts user samples not only for looping or backing purposes but for actual drum kit creation. The inbuilt samples are of a good quality and the sheer number of kit presets take a long while to explore.
The Strike Pro may not be perfect, but it does represent an unquestionably impressive amount of gear for the money. However, be prepared for a lot of tinkering to customise your setup.
Read the full Alesis Strike Pro review
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Roland unveiled the TD-27 module and kit at the start of 2020, and it sits in the middle of Roland’s e-kit range. At the time of writing, the TD-27 forms the backbone of Roland’s VAD series kits, as well as the TD-27KV we’re looking at here. The sounds are derived from the flagship TD-50, and includes a number of technologies designed to make playing your e-kit as close to the real thing as possible.
Prismatic Sound Modelling builds on the kit’s raw samples – captured in world-class studios, while PureAcoustic Ambience Technology places your virtual kit inside realistic sounding spaces, complete with room and overhead mic simulation.
As a complete kit, it comes packing larger pads (10” toms, 12/13” crash cymbals and hi-hats) with the big news being the inclusion of a 14”x4.3” stainless steel PD-140DS digital snare, and 18” CY-18DR ride cymbal for greater response, physical movement and realism.
The TD-27KV is a sturdy investment, but one that will get you into the realm of next-level triggering and should last you years.
Read the full Roland TD-27KV review
The focus with ATV’s aDrums is strongly on delivering top-quality acoustic drum (and some percussion) sounds, with a familiar, responsive controller to play them from, presented from a design standpoint that looks beautiful. In short, this e-kit aims to be as close in sound, feel and looks to an acoustic kit as is possible.
Each drum shell is a six-ply birch construction, fitted with mesh heads top and bottom, and coated with a black lacquer finish. The snare features three playable zones (head, rim and sidestick) and includes a wooden wedge to aid with the latter, while the toms are dual-zone (head and rim) leaving the bass drum as a single-zone drum.
The smaller diameter of each drum means that achieving a comfortable placement is quick and it feels like you’re sitting at a real kit. Meanwhile, the aD-H14 is possibly the best electronic hi-hat we’ve played. Combine the aD5 module with ATV’s pads and shells and you get a very realistic experience.
Read the full ATV aDrums Artist Standard review
Yamaha’s flagship DTX920K electronic drum kit comes complete with the powerful DTX900M module, plus four triple-zone drum, three triple-zone cymbals, a dual-zone hi-hat, robust kick drum and sturdy rack system.
Inside the module, Yamaha’s XA (Expanded Articulation) system helps boost the natural feedback and realistic sound of acoustic drums by creating marginally different samples each time you strike, even if they’re at the same velocity. The module also packs an aux-in/sampling connector for recording your own samples, or you can import your favourite sounds via USB flash memory.
What’s more, if you’ve been thinking about exploring the world of hybrid drumming, Stacking enables you to layer multiple drum voices on a single drum for greater customisation of your sound. With so much capability, the DTX920K is the ideal electronic drum kit for personal practice, the recording studio or even live gigs.
The most noteworthy aspects of the TD-50 are the new digital ride and snare which now plug into the kit's module via USB. The ride not only feels more like a real cymbal thanks to its size and weight, but is also designed to respond more realistically due to multiple sensors on its surface. The snare uses the same digital technology to perform much more realistically than any previous model.
The module itself plays host to 50 kit presets which utilise Roland's brand new Prismatic Sound Modelling engine. It’s also possible to import your own samples via SD card. These can be allocated as a primary sample, triggered by a chosen source, or blended with other samples using the new ‘sub-instrument’ menu.
Other noteworthy features include balanced left and right XLR master outputs, a new routing engine which allows the kit mixer to control only the headphone monitor mix without altering the front-of-house mix and 10-channel USB audio that allows multi-track recording straight to a computer.
For this kind of money one would expect some pretty groundbreaking stuff. Thankfully, Roland hasn't failed to deliver with the endlessly customisable TD-50.
Read the full Roland TD-50KVX review